When Alexander the Great was 33 he saw the breadth of his kingdom and wept salt tears, realising that there were no more lands left to conquer - or so goes the paraphrased quote from Plutarch. So too must the manufacturers of smartphones now feel. It feels that we are reaching some limit on what we know as a smartphone, that our thirst for the new is pushing us to look beyond the confines of the traditional form. Yes, we have adapted smartphones so that the entire front of them is just a screen, yes we have plied them with so many cameras that we are essentially walking around with a small surveillance network in our pockets, yes we have gotten them to such a point where you can even - through the majestic transformative powers of an app - turn your smartphone into a cowbell. Truly, with the traditional smartphone, we have conquered all available lands.
Which perhaps explains Samsung's long-held and somewhat bizarre desire to create a foldable smartphone. For it is evident that what we as a society truly need, more than anything, is a smartphone, that costs approximately twice as much as the majority of other top-end smartphones, whose screen is of such unusual dimensions that the majority of smartphone apps presumably will have to be entirely re-calibrated to work correctly on it and that has an inbuilt massive structural weakpoint which seems an invitation for it inevitably break. It is what we have been crying out for, and it is why we should all be thankful for the impending release of the Samsung Galaxy Fold.
Prototypes of the phone have for several years been stealing people's attention at various trade shows, however, we are nearing the slated release date of the actual finished product, the Galaxy Fold. Scheduled to be available for public sale on 26 April - at least in the US - many testers and tech writers have been receiving advanced copies of the phone in recent days and the results have been - well, almost exactly what you'd expect for a phone that has an inbuilt massive structural flaw.
The phone, which is set to cost a mesmerisingly extravagant €2,000, seems to have two main faults and reasons for breaking, as described by those who've received advanced copies. The first reason is that the screen apparently comes with a protective plastic covering on it - as do most smartphones - however, apparently if you remove this covering from the Galaxy Fold it is almost certain to stop working. While there is a warning on the box that this screen protector should not be removed, it seems that its importance ought be prominently emphasised, given that the majority of smartphones come with a removable protective plastic film. The second problem, that appears to have led to some people's phones breaking, is the fact that the phone is designed with a giant hinge in the middle of it to allow it to bend, which necessarily makes it far more likely to break. Its very raison d'etre is also its greatest weakness, it is like some Greek Tragedy, some Aesop-esque fable rendered as a phone - a foldable phone.
After one day of use... pic.twitter.com/VjDlJI45C9
— Steve Kovach (@stevekovach) April 17, 2019
— Todd Haselton (@robotodd) April 17, 2019
SUPER YIKES: something happened to my Galaxy Fold screen and caused a bulge. I don’t know how it happened, and I’m waiting to hear back from Samsung. It’s broken. https://t.co/p1014uB01D pic.twitter.com/3FZJkWtSKr
— Dieter Bohn (@backlon) April 17, 2019
Testers began reporting problems with the phone within as little as one day of use leading Samsung to issue a statement saying, "A limited number of early Galaxy Fold samples were provided to media for review. We have received a few reports regarding the main display on the samples provided. We will thoroughly inspect these units in person to determine the cause of the matter.”
Seemingly, in anticipation of users experiencing problems with the screen, people who buy the phone will be entitled, under a scheme called Samsung Care+ to free repairs of the phone for screen breakages and water damage.
While, they evidently sent out many phones to testers it is important to note that the incidence rate of reported problems is unknown and that Samsung have said that they've stressed tested the phone to ensure that it can withstand being opened and closed at the very least 200,000 times without problem.
However, for a product this expensive, particularly given Samsung's recent problems with the Note 7 - which had to be recalled due to reports of battery issues - they will be keen to ensure that there are as few problems with the phone as possible.
The Samsung Galaxy Fold is currently scheduled for release in Ireland on 3 May.